Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thank you, Voltaire.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

This has been knocking around in my head for a few days, mostly because of that list of things I mentioned in the last post. Not so much the refinishing of the trim; that's going to be a learning experience no matter how I slice it. (I've enlisted a high-school friend who now lives in Seattle and knows her way around a piece of wood for help. Facebook has its uses!) Not the hat. There's a difference between fussing because a hat isn't PERFECT and fussing because a hat isn't WEARABLE. The hat is not meant to be a work of art or a statement on society's subjugation of the's meant to keep my head warm, and so changes had to be made. I mean the things that didn't make it onto the list.

I spend a lot of time tap-dancing around things instead of DOING them, because the time isn't right, or the day isn't right, or the house isn't in order, or the moon is in the wrong phase (not really, but you get my drift). I don't ever want to start something unless I know I can finish it, and finish it well. REALLY well. And there's a lot of creative things out there that don't lend themselves to being "finished." They're about process, not product. Creativity is about doing ... muddling ... fiddling ... messing...leaving...returning. But there is a product at the end, and if the final product is less than satisfying, it engenders the next exploration.

I find that I can sit down and MAKE something quite easily. Give me the yarn and needles and directions and I'm off. I can modify as needed and finish and be pleased with the product. But I have the urge to CREATE as well, and that makes me nervous at the same. I know it'll be messy. I know I'm likely to make mistakes and possibly gasp waste materials. Because, you know, the world may run out of wool and onion skins and walnut hulls if I'm not careful. It may not be right the first time I try, and then what will I do with the pile of crap that results? Throwing it away would be wasteful and keeping it is a reminder of my screw-up. It'll take time, and time is precious, and using that time on screwing up is a poor use of time. You need to have something to show for your effort, and why bother showing crap?

And so I have to have The Perfect Environment in which to work. The house needs to be tidy first, which it never is. I realized the other day that I spend more time organizing my stash than I do using it. (OK, it was for the GOOD of the stash, it needs PROTECTION from MOTHS, alright?!?) Since when is washing the dishes Sooper Important? When it's used to postpone something that makes me uncomfortable, of course; even if that is something I desperately want to rediscover in myself. I have to be perfectly rested in order to begin. Yeah. Well. (You can all stop laughing now. I know.) I've thought that the need to have the house tidy was a way to control some of my anxiety, and I'm sure that's part of it. But it's also a defense mechanism, a stalling technique against myself.

So back to Voltaire, whose quote graced the beginning of the post. What my heart wants is to create freely, to welcome back the girl who wrote plays and puppet shows and figured out how to sew a 12:1 scale-sized mattress for a dollhouse bed (with the side panels and everything) without a pattern. I remember that, and I remember throwing a few of them away. It didn't matter; it was only for me, to see if I could do it (and also, if I didn't figure it out, I wouldn't have one). The Perfect, the need to have it just right for someone else's approval (who else's? I don't know), stands firmly in the way. It eats up my time and my energy. It doesn't mean that I shouldn't aim for quality in my work. But it's time to realize it's a multi-step process; that I have all the time I need to take as many steps as I need; that no one is standing behind me with a stopwatch. I am the only thing in my own way. Experience is a teacher, not a slave-driver.

Now, given this that last stash organization I mentioned, do I get credit for throwing away three skeins of obviously-felted KnitPicks laceweight from two summer's ago dyeing experiments? Huh? Do I?


puffthemagicrabbit said...

The house having to be perfect thing? I got that from my mom. I fight it- all the time. Most days I win, but every once in a while it gets me. Sigh.

Batty said...

Ah yes, perfection, the source of writer's block. The problem with creating things is that it's not a controlled process -- you plan, you get going, you hope for the best. It's not like following a pre-established pattern, and that's intimidating. I have the same issue. Really, it's about re-imagining failure as a necessary step in a process that ultimately leads to something good. But it's hard to do.

LBorealis said...

How did I miss this post earlier? How? Barb, I swear, you're my long-lost sister, we sound so much alike. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful essay. I am printing it out right now and putting it in my folder of back-to-school things to ponder and meditate on for a while.